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Dec 12, 2018

Exercise is Recommended for Prevention and Management of Heart Failure

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps protect against heart failure and improve outcomes, explain experts.

Exercise is key when it comes to heart failure, based on two recent papers that encourage physical activity for the prevention and management of this common condition. Both papers were published in JACC: Heart Failure and highlight the strong link between exercise and heart health.

Heart failure is a common condition that occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body, causing symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath. In the United States, more than 6 million adults are affected by heart failure. This number is expected to increase by nearly 50% by 2030, largely due to an aging population.

As a result, experts are doing all they can to understand how to prevent and manage heart failure. After all, we can’t control risk factors like age and family history. However, we can control things like our lifestyle and weight, as highlighted in the recent issue on fitness and the heart.

This paper, which was written by a team of experts on the subject, emphasizes the strong link between exercise, obesity and heart failure. In it, they explain two key steps for preventing and managing heart failure.

The first is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity is known to increase risk for heart failure, and achieving a healthy weight can help significantly reduce that risk.

The second step is staying active and limiting sedentary time, which is time spent sitting or lying down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 31 million adults aged 50 and older are inactive. Since risk for heart failure increases with age, it’s especially important that older adults stay active to reduce that risk.

Findings were evidenced in a second study recently published on heart failure, which included more than 137,000 women who were followed for 14 years. In this study, women who were the most active were 35% less likely to develop heart failure over the study period compared to those with no activity. Women who walked regularly also had 28% lower risk of developing heart failure than those who did not walk.

Women were between 50 and 79 years of age and were recruited from 40 clinical centers across the country. Findings remained true even after accounting for factors like age, weight and diabetes, which are known to affect cardiovascular risk.

It’s important to note that a healthy lifestyle is also important for patients already living with heart failure. According to experts, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce symptoms and improve outcomes. Since there’s no cure for heart failure, improving quality of life and outcomes are key goals of treatment.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.
  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.

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Infographic: Active Living

Infographic: Heart Failure